Let’s start with explaining the book. Here’s the short version:
THE HEAVY: When a doctor pronounced Dara-Lynn Weiss’s daughter Bea obese at age seven, the mother of two knew she had to take action. But how can a woman with her own food and body issues—not to mention spotty eating habits—successfully parent a little girl around the issue of obesity?
In this much-anticipated, controversial memoir, Dara-Lynn Weiss chronicles the struggle and journey to get Bea healthy. In describing their process—complete with frustrations, self-recriminations, dark humor, and some surprising strategies—Weiss reveals the hypocrisy inherent in the debates over many cultural hot-button issues: from processed snacks, organic foods, and school lunches to dieting, eating disorders, parenting methods, discipline, and kids’ self-esteem.
Compounding the challenge were eating environments—from school to restaurants to birthday parties—that set Bea up to fail, and unwelcome judgments from fellow parents. Childhood obesity, Weiss discovered, is a crucible not just for the child but also for the parents. She was criticized as readily for enabling Bea’s condition as she was for enforcing the discipline and, yes, the deprivation necessary to address it. Never before had Weiss been made to feel so wrong for trying to do the right thing.
The damned if you do/damned if you don’t predicament came into sharp relief when Weiss raised some of these issues in a Vogue article. Critics came out in full force, and Weiss unwittingly found herself at the center of an emotional and highly charged debate on childhood obesity.
A touching and relatable story of loving a child enough to be unpopular, The Heavy will leave readers applauding Weiss’s success, her bravery, and her unconditional love for her daughter.
At least, that is what Ballantine Books, the publisher, wants you to believe.
It all started last March (2012), when Vogue published “Weight Watcher,” an essay written by Dara Lynn Weiss, that chronicled her decision to put her 7 year old daughter Bea on a diet, which ended up in a Vogue photo shoot. Jezebel called Weiss “The most fucked up, selfish women to ever grace the magazine’s pages,” Other online publications like Jezebel ripped into her. Weiss discussed her own issues with food, and mistakes she made enforcing her daughter’s weight loss program, as recommended by her pediatrician. Their path wasn’t a simple one, and it included public fights over dessert, hot chocolate, among other incidents. Many felt that her implementation of this diet bordered on…….no, WAS child abuse.
Not long after the Vogue essay came out, she was offered a contract to write her story, and while her critics grew in numbers, she remained silent (I will address this later). Her book was published on January 15th, and has sold extremely well on Amazon. Here are some of the endorsements of the book:
“THE HEAVY should be required reading for every parent…” (-Abigail Pogrebin – Author of Stars Of David).
“Parents should see this as an inspiration — and a wake-up call.” (-Amy Dickinson– Washington Post columnist).
“Dara-Lynn Weiss is inspirational for her sheer will, her unwavering dedication, and her willingness to take accountability for her own actions.” (-Christine Carter – Sociologist).
“Dara-Lynn Weiss has written a brave and honest memoir about what it means to be a parent.” (-Dani Shapiro – noted author)
So I ask you, is this the work of a mom who cares, or is it a mother who is abusive?
As a parent, I want the best for my kids. Wanting the best can involve many things, physical & emotional well being, health, safety, love and nurturing, physical goods, faith. I think that want is universal for most parents. Where some people differ is on what the best IS. It can involve any one of the things I mentioned, or any combination of them. I’m sure I missed some, and likely some parents will correct me by adding to the list. In some cases, giving them one of them can reduce or negate another. An example would be a parent’s want for their child to travel, and the parent books a trip to a dangerous city or country. You put your child’s life in danger in an attempt to open their horizons.
I believe that Ms. Weiss has done that as well with her daughter. I know little about her daughter Bea, except that she was fat at 7, and today she isn’t. What I DO know is that during her dietary time, Bea was involved in some very public “discussions” about what her mom told her she could not eat, and I’m pretty sure that the other kids around her in those public places were not being treated the same way by their parents. Weiss, in a recent interview, compared her “job” of policing her daughter to someone who has food allergies to items, and are then handed those items to eat by someone who is unaware of their allergies. I have a 10 year old son who’s been lactose intolerant since birth, and he’s a pretty sensible kid, and I’ve never had to lecture him about eating ice cream or other dairy products that might cause him digestive issues. More important, I’ve never made him feel like shit when he makes his food choices (and not all of them are great, believe me). Yet, he’s very healthy, gets daily exercise (despite his love for video games), and is generally happy with my ex and I as parents.
From a recent Jezebel article that discusses the allergy comparison:
“….doesn’t it seem like publicly getting upset with your kid for accepting a slice of birthday cake or a cookie at a bake sale creates a really unhealthy psychological outlook?”
Well add me to the list of those who think so. I grew up in a first generation Italian household (my grandparents on both sides were born in Italy). When we were babies, we teethed on wine that my grandfather pressed. At 5 years of age, we were given a shot glass with his homemade chianti. No one in my family drank to excess. We learned at a young age to respect wine and food. My grandmothers both would say “Non troppo, quanto basta”, which loosely translated means, “not too much, just enough”. My father would always say “everything in moderation”. We grew up in a household where my parents wouldn’t say no, as long as we weren’t greedy about things. Those things included food. When I gained a significant amount of weight in high school, my mom made even more of the things I liked, and just gave me smaller portions. No, I never noticed. We walked, as a family, did things that helped us, with the emphasis on health, not what size jacket or pants I wore.
And now, the mom who has swung the pendulum so far the other way (to her daughter’s emotional detriment) has decided to open her mouth and hit the talk circuit. So, she was quiet while the book was in editing, surely on advice from her publicist. After all, why discuss the book before the book comes out, where it might lose steam? I took a moment to look over her Facebook page, and it’s a litany of TV appearances and radio talk shows. Here are some of her more recent posts:
There’s a Q&A with me in the Books column of this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now!
I will be appearing tomorrow on the Dr. Oz show on Fox!
Excerpts from my interview on HLN yesterday…
Live at 1 pm today: I’ll be joining a panel discussion about childhood obesity on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU-FM (DC NPR).
Just did an interview with the Times of London Weekend section — it will run as a cover story this weekend in the UK. Also, I will be on WLNY TV tomorrow morning on “Live From the Couch.”
I will be on Good Day New York on Friday morning!
There are plenty more. I’m struggling to figure out how writing a book about how you policed the shit out of your fat kid by intimidating her and micromanaging her food choices constitutes a mother’s love. I’m also wondering how many of the MeMe Roth clones are embracing this woman, who is now realizing an income from her self promotion. Jeez, my parents never wrote a book about “everything in moderation”. I would imagine that my parents intent was simply to be the best parents they could be, and nothing more. There was no desire to be “parent of the year”. I think that Ms. Weiss is looking for approval from America for what I consider to be bad parenting, something that seems to be more prevalent in our reality tv show world today. For me, a GOOD parent would take their “obese” child aside every day, give them love, talk to them about being healthy, emphasizing that size is not an indicator of health, and that the goal should be to be happy & as healthy as one can be. The GOOD parent would fly in the face of the garbage being put out by the diet industry, and big pharma, teaching their kids to be strong while the other kids are making fun of them for being fat, and to forge on so they can show the other kids that there’s nothing that a fat kid can’t do.
So while you’ll make a small fortune from this book, your daughter will grow up emotionally harmed, likely with body image issues related to her policing of everything she ate, and will have you to thank for it. I hope and pray that when she gets away from your control, she doesn’t swing the pendulum so far the other way that she jeapordizes her physical and emotional well being, and I’m not talking about food to the excess. Rebellion can cause a person to do some extreme things.